KING OF THE ZULU TRIBE








As any clothes horse knows, wait long enough, and eventually everything comes back into fashion. Throughout the '80s, Jah Shaka never lost his faith in roots, convinced the music would come back into its own, even as the reggae masses deserted in droves for the digital sounds of the dancehalls. Shaka's faith was rewarded in the following decade when roots and culture began coming back into fashion, and stars suddenly started knocking on his door. This included Horace Andy, who cut this powerful cultural album for Shaka in 1993, arguably his best since his Wackies' sets in the previous decade. Shaka had built his reputation on steppers riddims, and "The King And I" is a beauty, utterly irrepressible but with a distinctly evocative flavor, and the perfect backing for Andy's salutations to Haile Selassie, while "The Mark" is equally compulsive, but with a darker atmosphere. "Jah A Come," aptly enough, features a weightier riddim and a rootsier atmosphere, while the album closer is steppers at its most sumptuous, sweeping irresistibly across the grooves as Andy chants out "The Truth" about life and faith overhead. Shaka was equally adept at militant roots reggae, in both an old-school and a more modern guise, as "I Believe" and "Jah Light" respectively illustrate, with both providing powerful declarations of Andy's faith. As does "Jah Glory," one of the set's standouts, which boasts a nyabinghi flavored roots riddim and one of Andy's most emotive performances. Equally potent is "The Ghetto," where the singer's soulful vocals intertwine with the bluesy, roots backing. From the downbeat the set swings to the upbeat, with "Everyman Foundation"'s universal message of Rastafari backed by a bouncy roots reggae backing, the most modern sounding riddim on the record. In contrast, the oldest song on the set is "African Woman," beautifully recut in bubbly roots reggae fashion. Shaka brought out Andy's best on this stellar set by doing precisely what he'd been doing for years, offering up sensational '70s styled riddims in his own distinctive style. Like wine, his sound only got better with age, and this album has done the same.

Jo-Ann Greene ~ AllMusic


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